The 78th Assembly District in Wisconsin covers Madison’s liberal west side and has not been seriously contested by a GOP candidate in decades. That does not mean, however, that Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, has not faced any opposition in his bid to remain a representative. He was elected to the Assembly in 2010 following the departure of Democrat Spencer Black, and his main challenge then came from Wisconsin Green Party candidate Ben Manski.
Two years later, Hulsey faces another challenge from Green Party candidate Jonathan Dedering. So what are the Green Party’s chances in this race?
Because there is no serious GOP challenge, the Wisconsin Green Party appears to have a decent chance to contest this liberal district, offering an alternative to the establishment choice. Dedering is running on a platform that stresses reinstating collective bargaining rights, repealing voting restrictions, access to healthcare, and refunding public schools. While, these are all great initiatives, they differ little from his opponent. The biggest difference between the candidates lies in their ‘major’ initiative to create jobs. Dedering wants to legalize hemp production by the state, while Husley wants to stimulate job creation by hiring Wisconsinites to renovate all 9,000 of the state buildings to be more energy efficient.
Perhaps Dedering will be helped, however, by Hulsey’s own missteps as he appears to be prone to controversy, including a recent incident over the summer which has not gone away.
In August, Hulsey pled no contest to a disorderly conduct citation after police accused him of flipping a boy he had never met off his inner tube and taking pictures of him at a Madison beach in July. In the heightened post-Sandusky climate, a family member who witnessed the event quickly came up to the beach to intervene, where Hulsey quickly scurried off and deleted the pictures. Hulsey told the Associated Press that the entire incident was a misunderstanding, that he was intervening in a situation he saw as dangerous among the boys in the lake and his pictures were of the sunset, only inadvertently capturing the boy.
Instead of this fairly benign controversy quickly being swept under the rug (the fine was merely $114), public interest in the event extended when Hulsey suggested that the citation was part of a larger political ploy by Mayor Soglin. Sally Miley, an aide to Soglin, is the boy’s grandmother and was the one who witnessed and reported the incident. Hulsey stated that he was “concerned the whole thing is politically motivated” since he had supported former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz over Soglin in the mayoral race last year. These bizarre counternarratives and accusations have ensured that the story has stayed in the headlines during Hulsey’s reelection bid.
Unfortunately, for Dedering, however, he has been unable to capitalize on Hulsey’s missteps as his own organization and fundraising success seems to be well below that of Manski who managed to obtain 30% of the 2010 vote against Hulsey’s 48%.
Dedering reported only raising $200 as of an August 14 campaign funding report although his website now cites $1,040 in raised funds. This number pales in comparison to Manski who has raised $30,000.
Furthermore, Dedering has secured few major endorsements, with his campaign biography listing Ian Murphy—the man who impersonated a Koch Brother in the infamous radio call to Governor Walker at the height of the protests last year—as one of his few supporters.
None of this bodes well for Dedering. However, hopefully in the last few weeks of the campaign, he can make a bigger difference to the political discourse by highlighting issue differences between himself and Husley, and perhaps provide voters an alternative to traditional political voices.